We protect our children in many ways. We leave the hospital with an infant car seat
We plug all the outlets when they start to crawl. We tell our children never to run into the street.
We repeatedly tell them never to touch the hot stove or play with matches.
We start this dialogue, or rather monologue, with them when they are about two.
When they reach school age, we talk to them about how important it is to wear a helmet while riding their bike and why they must always buckle their seat belts.
We repeatedly tell them never to go anywhere with a stranger, and we monitor their Facebook activity and their text messages.
However, most of us find it just too difficult to talk to our children about sexual abuse.
Most sexual abuse does not occur with a stranger.
In fact, 87 percent to sexual abuses are perpetrated by someone the child knows or loves.
Out of all the sexual abuse that is reported, 25 percent of the abuse is perpetrated on preschool age children.
The largest number of children being abused are between the ages of eight and 11 years of age.
Statistically, one in three girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. If you think it doesn't happen here, check the criminal court activity in the Dickinson, Iron, Florence, Marinette area.
How does a loving parent talk about such a subject? Isn't the world scary enough without telling children that someone out there or someone close to them may want to hurt them in unspeakable ways?
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
If you haven't talked to your children about healthy boundaries, private parts, how to say no to an adult, and what they should do if someone touches them on their special private parts, take the time to talk to them now.
Experts say communication is critical to protecting children from sexual abuse.
They offer the following advice to parents:
- Talk to your child every day and take time to really listen and observe. Encourage him or her to share concerns and problems with you.
- Explain that his or her body belongs only to them alone and that a child has a right to say no to anyone who might try to touch him or her.
- Tell your child that some adults may try to hurt children and make them do things that the child doesn't feel comfortable doing. Often these grownups call what they're doing a secret between themselves and the child.
- Explain that some adults may even threaten children by saying their parents may be hurt or killed if the child ever share the secret.
- Make sure your child know that if someone does something confusing like touching or taking a naked pictures or giving gifts, that you want to be told. Reassure the child and explain that he or she will not be blamed for whatever an adult does.
- If a child tells a parent about sexual molestation, believe the child. Children rarely like about sexual abuse. But, temper your own reaction, recognizing that your perspective and acceptance are critical signals to the child. your greatest challenge may be to not convey your own horror about the abuse.
- Remember that taking action is critical because of nothing is done, other children will be at risk.
Many times children do not directly talk about abuse, experts say.
To help determine if a child has been abused, they offer the following warning signals:
- Genital or anal injury, such as swollen or bleeding.
- Genital pain or itching.
- Fear of specific persons or situations/strangers.
- Nightmares or night terrors.
- Wetting the bed or a change in sleep patterns.
- Eating disorders, gaining weight.
- Clinging to significant adult. Fear of being alone.
- Poor self image, low self-esteem.
- Running away.
- Early sexual knowledge. Initiates sophisticated sexual behavior, promiscuity.
- Frequent unexplained health problems, such as headaches, stomach aches, pains in muscle and bones that have no logical cause.
- Self-destructive behaviors, such as drug or alcohol abuse, and suicidal gestures.
- Excessive masturbation.
- Extreme fear of undressing.